One time my roommate in college walked into our apartment and looked at me, with my hair all crazy and wearing the same pajama, shirt, robe, coat combo I had been wearing for the past week, and said, “Jason—I think you’re depressed.”
I said, “Really? I don’t feel depressed.”
But who knows? Maybe he was right. So I went to therapy.
It was great. But we discovered that I wasn’t depressed. At least not clinically depressed.
I had a friend who was clinically depressed for a while. A few years ago she was on enough anti-depressants to kill a small horse. To me, that’s depressed.
Sometimes I hear people when they’re sad, or having a bad week or something and they might muse out loud: I think I’m depressed.
Turns out, in the words of Mike Myers in Wayne’s World, that they were just really bored.
I’ve noticed the same phenomena about the phrase “burned out.” I hear this phrase get thrown around a lot. I hear it used by people who are not burned out. They’re just tired and struggling with how to motivate themselves. Or maybe they have a bad attitude. These things are not fun—and they are potentially dangerous and could potentially lead to burnout. But it’s not actually being burned out.
I can’t help but think of how using such a powerful phrase to explain potentially solvable problems can become self-fulfilling.
What if we used less dramatic words to explain our less dramatic moods in an effort to declare to anyone who might be listening that our moods will not conquer our spirits?
In LA we always joke about fighting off colds. “I will not allow myself to get sick!” we say. What if we applied the same can-do gusto to our anxiety, our sadness, or struggle to remember why what we’re doing is important?
How might that affect our own perception of our moods? How might not misapplying burnout actually save us from burning out?
The good news is that most things we attribute as burnout can actually be overcome in really beautiful ways and can actually make us healthier people in the process.
Posted on Tue, April 28, 2009